The glory of the New Covenant. 3:7-18
In defense of his apostolic ministry Paul sets out to explain the difference between the ministry of the covenant that leads to death and the ministry that leads to life. When Moses came down from the mountain with the ten commandments, after his meeting with God, his face still radiated. Because of the fear of the people, Moses covered his face when speaking with them and only uncovered it again when speaking with the Lord. Unlike the ministry of the covenant that leads to death, the glory of which is both fading and veiled, the ministry of the covenant undertaken by Paul and his missionary team, under the authority of Christ, leads to life - eternal and unambiguous.
v7-8. Paul begins his argument by establishing the superiority of the ministry of the gospel over the ministry of the law. Paul is using the word "ministry" here in the sense of "administration", and what he does is compare the administration of the covenant through the auspices of the Mosaic law and its Levitical administrators, and the administration of covenant through the auspices of the Spirit and his apostolic administrators. If the one that brings death comes with glory, how much more will the administration of the Spirit (exercised through Paul and his apostolic team), a ministry which brings life, come with greater glory?
v9. Contrasting the two kinds of ministries, or administrations, Paul further develops the point that the glory of the ministry of "righteousness" will outshine the glory of the ministry of "condemnation". The ministry of "condemnation" concerns the administration of the Law, along with its condemning curse. The ministry of "righteousness" concerns the administration of the Spirit (in practical terms, "the gospel") which justifies - ie. makes right with God (enlivens, gives life).
v10-11. The glory associated with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai does not compare with the revelation of God in the gospel, for the administration of the Law is a passing thing, whereas the administration of the Spirit will continue. Thus, the glory of the new supersedes the old.
v12. Having established the superiority of the ministry / administration, of the covenant under the gospel, Paul now identifies the different approaches between the two administrations. On the basis of the superiority of gospel ministry, Paul and his apostolic team can be "very bold" in their ministry - they can go for it.
v13. Paul notes that this was not the case with Moses who had to veil his face. Paul is making the point that he and his team can preach and teach with open and complete frankness. They have a brilliantly clear revelation from God. For this reason, they can be bold. He goes on to develop the idea of the revelational clarity of his gospel ministry.
v14-16. The synagogue practice of veiling the Torah and wearing a cover over the head, continues the image of the veiling of truth to the present day. In fact, the veil is over the mind. For those in the synagogue, listening to the reading of the scriptures, truth is hidden from them. Yet, the veil can be taken away. God reveals the truth of the gospel to those who "seek", "ask", "knock", "turn", (reach out to Jesus).
v17. In the ministry of Paul and his apostolic team, the veil-lifting role is performed by the Spirit. So, Paul's ministry is marked by freedom of expression and action; he is "bold".
v18. Having given the grounds for his boldness in ministry, Paul states how his words apply to all believers. All those who have turned to Christ have had the veil of unbelief lifted from them and through the enlightening ministry of the Holy Spirit, now see God face to face.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom
Paul in his "apologia" explains how his gospel ministry is superior to that of the ministry of the Law, 3:7-11. The old brings death, the new brings life. This gives him a boldness in ministry, v12, which expresses itself in complete frankness, v13, the transforming power of conversion, v14-16, and freedom of operation, v17. This is inevitably the experience of all believers who, through the indwelling Spirit, grow daily into the likeness of Christ, v18.
This passage indirectly tells us something of the wonder of the Holy Scriptures.
i] Our reading or hearing of the New Testament exposes us to a glory which exceeds the glory that once radiated Moses' face.
ii] The New Testament, through the power of the Spirit, has the capacity to:
Expose undiluted truth;
Enliven the unbeliever;
Free us from the bondage of legalism;
Transform us into the likeness of Christ.
Next Sunday, when we hear the gospel read in church, consider for a moment the wonder of the event. What we are witnessing is something more wondrous than when Moses stood with shining face before the people of Israel.
1. Paul describes gospel ministry as possessing a "surpassing glory". To what extent is this glory found in our personal reading of the Bible?
2. In what sense should Paul's boldness in ministry be ours?
3. We all want to "reflect the Lord's glory" in our lives, but how?
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